Homestay Handbook

The Homestay Program is designed to help you transition into your life in Canada. This housing option will provide you with an excellent opportunity to learn about Canadian culture by living with a Canadian family during your studies.

To ensure a positive experience for both you and your host(s), it is important that you take some time to read through the guidelines outlined below.

Please email the ELP office If you have any questions.

Homestay Handbook

A. What to Expect at Your Homestay
1. Canadian Families 

There are many different types of Canadian families. There isn't a typical Canadian family, and host families can be from a variety of backgrounds. Remember that Canada is a multicultural society. Although all hosts speak fluent English, their families may be from Europe, Asia, Latin America or another location. Some host families may have children, others do not.

Some potential types of host families are:

  • mother, father and children
  • young couples
  • single men or women
  • grandparents
  • retired individuals
  • single mothers and children
  • single fathers and children
2. Canadian Houses 

Most Canadian houses are made from wood. In Guelph, families may live in a house with a private yard, a townhouse, or an apartment. 

Canadian houses normally have a kitchen with a cooking and eating area. Many houses also have a separate dining room used for the evening meal.

The living room usually has comfortable seats, a television, and stereo. There might be a fireplace in the living room.

Many family houses will have an extra room in the basement for television or games, or extra bedrooms. 

Bedrooms are usually on the top floor (upstairs) or in the basement (the lowest floor, often below the ground.) 

3. Your Bedroom

Your bedroom may be on the top floor (upstairs) or on the lower floor (basement). You will have your own bed in a private room with basic furniture.

Normally, there are two sheets and blankets on your bed. Sleep between the two sheets. When you make your bed, tuck the sheets under the mattress. Normally, bedsheets are washed once a week.

Your room should also have a desk and chair for you to study. The lighting should be good for reading and writing. You may want to have personal things to make your room more comfortable.

Make a cleaning plan/schedule with your host. You are responsible for keeping your bedroom clean; make your bed, vacuum regularly, and keep food out of your room.

TIP - Comfort: If something about your room is uncomfortable, you may talk about additional needs with your homestay family; for example, "The temperature in my room is colder than I am used to. Could you give me an extra blanket?" or "The light in my room is not very good for reading. Is there another lamp I could use?"

4. Meals 

Your host family will provide you with breakfast, a packed lunch to take to school, dinner, and some snacks.

Meals in Canada are often casual. Meals are usually one plate. There may be less variety than in your culture.

Once you are settled, your host will probably ask you to prepare your own breakfast and lunch (Monday to Friday). Dinner will be prepared for you.

Occasionally, you may want to share your cultural foods with your host family.  Invite friends over and make your favourite cultural dish!


Breakfast times vary depending on schedules. Often students make their own breakfast. Breakfast is usually a simple meal of cereal with milk, toast or fruit.

On weekends, breakfast might be larger with eggs or pancakes.

Coffee, tea, and juice are common morning drinks.

In some families people have breakfast together, but in many situations everyone eats their breakfast separately because of work and school schedules.

Bowl of cereal with milk and strawberries.Plate of bacon, eggs and toast.Croissants, coffee and orange juice.



Lunch is usually eaten around 12:00 p.m. Lunch is usually packed to take to school or work. The most common lunch is a sandwich, fruit, and a drink. Sandwiches come in many varieties; thinly sliced meat, cheese, and vegetables are common fillings.

Some Canadians will pack extra food from their dinner the night before to reheat at school or work, called "leftovers". 

Packaged lunch with sandwich, fruit and a glass of milk.Leftover food in a plastic food container.



The largest meal is usually dinner. Canadians eat dinner earlier than in many countries, usually around 6:00 p.m. Most Canadian families try to eat dinner together and talk about their day.

Pasta, meat, and fish are popular main dishes. Potatoes and rice are very common and are cooked in a variety of ways. Salads often accompany meals or are eaten before the meal. 

Plate of spaghetti and meatballs.Plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables.


TIP - Meal Times: If you will be absent for a meal, you should tell your host family as soon as possible (text, call, email). Confirm your schedule with your host family before you leave home in the morning.

5. Food

Canadians eat many different kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables. Meat and potatoes are common items. You may find Canadian food to be heavy or greasy at first. Try to balance cooked meals with fresh fruit and vegetables for snacks.

Go to the grocery store with your host. Show them foods you like and dislike. As you try new foods, make a list of foods you enjoyed or discovered. If you have any food allergies, you should tell your homestay family immediately.

You are responsible to help; set the table, clear the table and put away dishes. Clean up after yourself anytime you use kitchen items.

6. Transportation 

Your homestay family will show you where to get a bus to and from the university. They can also help you understand the bus schedule.

Once you have registered for your courses at Guelph, you will receive a monthly bus pass, and can ride the bus without paying.

Your homestay family will not allow you to use their car because of insurance complications.

Sometimes your homestay parents may drive you to a location; however, this is only a courtesy, not a responsibility or program requirement. 

B. When You Arrive in Guelph
1. Introductions 

Meeting your host family for the first time may feel strange. Try to relax and get to know them.

The first few days will be a time of adjustment for you and your host family. Learn their names and ask some questions about their interests and lifestyle. You may also want to ask specific questions about the house and house rules.

2. House Rules

In the first week at your new home you will have many questions. Each family may have different rules or schedules, so you will need to ask questions to understand what your host family expects.

Below is a list of questions you may want to ask your host family as you learn about the home and their expectations. 

  • Where can I store my suitcase?
  • Should I always remove my shoes?
  • Are there any areas of the house that are private?
  • Are there any items in the house I should not use or touch?
  • Are there any rules about pets? (in or out, feeding times, etc.)
  • Can my friends visit me here?
  • Can I have a friend stay overnight?
  • Can invite a friend for dinner?
  • Can I have friends in my room?
Household Routine 
  • What time do you go to bed?
  • What time is quiet time?
  • What time do you wake up? On weekends?
  • Is there a curfew? If I am going to be late, when should I call you?

TIP - Late-night Activity: It is normal for students to be awake when the family is asleep. You might want to study, email, or telephone your family late at night. Remember to be quiet and to ask your host family if your late night activity disturbs their sleep.

TIP - If You Are Late: Canadians value time and punctuality. If you are going to be late, your family will expect a telephone call.

Meals and the Kitchen 
  • What time do we have meals?
  • Should I help set or clear the table?
  • Can I help myself to food or drink, or should I ask first?
  • Do I need to prepare my own breakfast or lunch?
  • Where are glasses/dishes/utensils kept?
  • How does the stove/microwave work?
  • What is the dish washing procedure?
  • Can you show me how to operate the shower/bath/shower curtain/toilet?
  • When is a good time to shower/bathe?
  • How often may I shower/bathe?
  • How long can I stay in the shower/bath?
  • Where are cleaning supplies kept?
  • Where can I find a mop or rags?
  • Where should I put dirty towels?
  • Should I make my bed every day?
  • How often should I clean my room?
  • Will anyone else in the family enter my room?
  • If I am too cold or too hot, what should I do?
Washing Clothes
  • When is a good time/day to wash my clothes?
  • Where should I keep my dirty clothes?
  • How do I operate the clothes washer and dryer?
  • If you don't want me to use the machines, what is the cleaning schedule?
  • Where do I hang wet clothes or special items that don't go in the dryer?
Transportation/My Neighbourhood
  • How do I get to school?
  • Where is the bus stop?
  • How long is the bus ride?
  • What is the bus schedule?
  • Where is the nearest store to purchase toiletries or personal items?
  • Where is the nearest park or place to walk?
  • Where is the nearest post office?
  • Which telephone can I use?
  • Do I need to buy a prepaid phone card for long distance calls?
  • Can I listen to messages on the answering machine?
  • What should I say if I answer the phone?

TIP - Telephone Manners: Usually Canadians answer the phone and say, "Hello". Some families may prefer to answer and say, "The Smith Residence" (Smith is the family name). If you answer the phone and the caller asks to speak to a family member who is not at home, you should say, "I'm sorry, _______ is not here. Can I take a message, or would you like to call back?" If the caller wants to leave a message, you should write the message on a piece of paper and leave it beside the phone.

  • Can I use your computer?
  • When is a good time to use your computer?
  • Is there a time limit to my computer use?
  • How do I connect to the internet?
  • Is there a limit to my internet use? 
  • Can I watch the TV? Do I need special instructions?
  • Can I use the streaming device (Smart TV, Android box, Apple TV)?  How do I use it?
  • Can I use the DVD player?
  • Are there times when I should not use the TV or DVD player?
  • Is there a stereo or radio for listening to music or practicing my listening skills?
3. Cigarettes and Alcohol 

Most Canadians do not allow smoking in their homes. If you smoke, ask where you can smoke outside.

In Ontario, people under 19 years old may not drink alcohol. If you are 19 years old and would like to drink alcohol, you must ask your host family for permission to bring alcohol into the home.

Illegal drugs or alcohol abuse will not be tolerated in the host family's home.

C. Daily Life in Canada/Everyday Situations 
1. Greetings
  • "Good morning" is said when you first see someone in the morning.
  • "Good night" is said when you are going to bed.
  • "Hi" or "Hello" are used at other times of the day.
  • "How are you?" or "How are you doing?" is often used as part of a greeting; most people simply reply, "Fine, thanks."
  • Canadians often ask, "How is it going?" (Which sounds like "Howzit goin?") This is also a greeting. You can reply, "Good, thanks." or "Fine, thanks."
2. Eating 

If your hosts offer you more food and you say, "no thanks", they may not offer a second time. If you want more food, you should accept the first offer or ask, "May I please have some more__________?" 

TIP - Getting to Know Your Host/Celebrations: Try to enjoy celebrations and learn about Canadian lifestyle and values. Ask questions and learn if the traditions in your host family are the same for all Canadians or specific for your host family and their background. Also remember to share the special celebrations from your own culture.

3. Table Manners 

Most meals are eaten with a knife, fork, or spoon. It is acceptable to use your hands for certain items such as:

  • sandwiches
  • hot dogs or hamburgers
  • pizza
  • toast
  • chicken wings or drumsticks
  • tacos
  • corn on the cob
  • fruit
  • foods served with dips (chips, raw vegetable sticks, bread); never dip a second time once the food has touched your mouth.

It is considered polite to: 

  • Chew with your mouth closed
  • Talk without food in your mouth
  • Not use your fingers to push food onto your spoon or fork
  • Keep your knife away from your mouth
  • Eat quietly without slurping
  • Pick food out of your teeth in private (not at the table)
  • Ask for items to be passed to you; for example, "Please pass the salt."
4. Bath/Shower

You will probably share a bathroom with other members of your host family. Remember to make a shower/bathing schedule with your host to avoid waiting to use the shower.

It is normal to leave the bathroom door open when it is not in use.

Most Canadian bathrooms have the toilet, sink, and shower or bathtub in one room.

Canadian bathrooms do not have drains in the floor. Water can only be drained from the sink or bathtub.

Often the shower is inside the bathtub with a curtain or door to keep the water from spraying outside the bathtub area.

After using the bath, shower, or sink, it is polite to wipe up any water you have spilled.

Dirty or wet towels may be hung to dry or put in a laundry basket (ask your host family).

To adjust water temperature, there may be one or two taps. If there is one tap, the temperature can be adjusted by turning the tap left or right. Turning left will usually make the water hot. Turning right will usually make the water cold. If there are two taps, the left tap is usually hot; it will have the letter H or a red coloured marking. The right tap is usually cold; it will have the letter C or a blue coloured marking.

Two water taps--one hot and one cold.Universal shower faucet with shower head and hose.


Most Canadians shower in the morning and wash their hair in the shower. If you prefer to bathe in the evening, try to take your shower or bath before 9:30 p.m. 

The hot water systems in Canada use a boiler. If you take a very long shower, there may not be enough hot water for the next person. Try to limit your shower time to 10 minutes.

Shower Instructions:

  1. Step into the bathtub and pull the curtain or door closed. It is important to close it completely to keep the water inside the bath area.
  2. Be sure the curtain is inside the bathtub.
  3. Turn the hot and cold taps in the bathtub until you have a good temperature.
  4. Pull or turn the knob to make the water to flow from above.
  5. When you turn the water off, remember to reverse the water flow back into the bathtub.

Toilet Etiquette:

  1. Used toilet paper should be put in the toilet.
  2. Do not put any other garbage down the toilet.
  3. As a courtesy, men should put the toilet seat down after use. Women should place all pads and tampons in the garbage.
  4. If the toilet is dirty from your use, clean it with the toilet brush before leaving the bathroom.
5. Kitchen

Your host family may have appliances you do not know how to use. Ask for instructions if you do not know how to use them.

Try to observe where things are stored in the kitchen and replace items where you found them.

6. Garbage and Recycling 

Most Canadian families recycle paper, glass, and metal products. Ask your hosts about their procedure for recycling and garbage. Some families may also compost organic waste for their garden. Ask your family if they compost and how to proceed.

7. Privacy 

Canadians value privacy. Normally, if a person wants to be alone they will go to their room and close the door. If you want privacy or quiet, it is acceptable to close your door. If family members wish to enter your room, they should knock first. If children want your attention, you can tell them you need to study and close the door. 

8. Pets 

Many Canadians have pets that live inside the house. This may include dogs, cats, birds, or other animals. Canadians often see pets as a part of the family and pets are free to enter all rooms. If you do not want animals in your room, it is acceptable to close your door and tell your hosts that you are uncomfortable having pets in your room.

Ask your family about rules regarding pets; for example, some families do not like their cats to go outside or only let their dogs outside if a family member is present. 

9. Going Out with Your Host Family

You may be invited to join your host family for an activity, outing, restaurant meal, or even a vacation. It is a good idea to discuss financial expenses with your host family before accepting the invitation. Some families will have the ability to pay for you, but others may not.

If your host family pays for your activities, you should thank them. You might also want to consider making a special meal for them.


If your host family invites you to a restaurant as part of the normal meal schedule, they should pay for your meal. If it is a special occasion or an expensive restaurant, you may be asked to contribute to the cost. If you are expected to pay and you choose not to join them, they should provide you with a meal to have at home. If you are unsure, it is okay to ask your host family about who will pay.

Activities and Outings

Your host family will probably want to take you out to experience Canadian lifestyle. If you are invited to join an activity, be sure to ask your host family what you should bring and if you will need money. If your host family says that you should pay and you don't want to spend the money, it is okay to say, "no thank you" and stay home. If you are not interested or have different plans, tell your family; for example, you can say, "Thank you for the invitation, but I have to study for my exam."

10. Vacations 

Your host family may go away on vacation during your stay. If your family will be away for more than two to five days, you should tell the Homestay Coordinator; we can help make other care arrangements for you.

If your family goes away and you agree to remain at home, they should provide you with food and other things you will need during their absence. Be sure to get emergency telephone numbers to contact them or someone else if you need to.

If your host family invites you to join the vacation, you should talk to them about how much it will cost. Ask about accommodation, transportation, meals, etc. If you choose not to join the vacation, your host family should provide you with everything you will need while they are away. This includes food, utilities, internet, heating/cooling, etc.

If you stay home without the family, you should not have guest over without the permission of your host(s).

D. Other Important Homestay Details 
1. Personal Care

Personal Hygiene

In Canadian culture, it is important to use deodorant, brush your teeth often, and shower every one or two days. 

Please note that many Canadians are allergic to perfume. As a result, perfume is not permitted in many workplaces. We recommend that you do not wear perfume or cologne.


Canadians like to wear clean clothes every day. It is rare to wear the same clothes two or more days in a row. If Canadians see you wear the same clothes two or more days in a row, they will think you are wearing dirty clothes. Remember to clean your clothes regularly and change into clean clothes every day.

Please note that it is normal for Canadians to do the laundry (wash their clothes) once or twice a week, once there are enough clothes to fill the laundry machine. We do not wash our clothes every day.

It is also common for Canadians to have special clothes to sleep in, called pajamas. These clothes are used only for sleeping and directly before sleep to relax. 

Sanitary Napkins/Toilet Paper

Toilet tissue must be flushed down the toilet. Sanitary napkins cannot be flushed and should be wrapped and placed in a garbage container.

Reminder: Your host will help you get used to living in their home. It is a good learning opportunity to talk to your host about their personal care habits.

2. Keys

You will be given keys to your host's house. Please take good care of these keys and be sure to return them to your host family when you leave. If you lose your keys, you will need to pay for the cost of replacing them and the locks on the doors.

3. Damage or Loss of Property

If you damage or break something in your host's home during a homestay placement, offer to have the item fixed or replaced. It can be difficult to tell your host that you have broken something. If this is the case, come to see the Homestay Coordinator so we can help you with the situation.

Always make sure you know how to use the household appliances so that you don't break them. Also, be careful when you are cooking so that you don't burn pots and pans or make burn marks on counter tops.

Reminder: If you have outstanding homestay payments, phone bills, and/or have incurred damages in your homestay placement and have not resolved these issues, you will not receive your final grades, certificate and transcript until all outstanding issues have been resolved.

4. Payment of Homestay Fees 

The monthly homestay fee (as of W18A term) is $850 per month. Payment of your homestay fees must be made upon your arrival at the University of Guelph. Homestay term fees can be paid in full or monthly.

It is expected that you pay the full monthly fee, including times when you choose to be away from your homestay (i.e., vacations).

After two months with your homestay host, you may choose to enter a private arrangement with your host. Monthly term payment is $850 CAD per month or $27.45 per day, to be paid directly to your host. If you enter a private arrangement with your host, you will no longer be under the direct supervision of the Homestay Coordinator and we will no longer manage your homestay payments.
5. Health and Safety 

Let your host know if you are not feeling well. If you have to miss school, you should also contact your instructor so that he/she will know that you will be away from class.

The following options are available for health care:

Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) 

Telehealth Ontario is a free telephone service provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. This service allows Ontario residents to call and speak to a registered nurse about their medical questions any time of the day or night. It is designed to provide quick answers, information and advice.

You may choose to call Telehealth Ontario when you are sick or injured but are not sure if you need to see a doctor and may be able to treat the situation at home. You may also ask questions you have about an ongoing or previously diagnosed condition, or general questions about nutrition, sexual health or healthy lifestyles.

What the service does not do is replace a doctor's visit for an actual diagnosis or prescription. It also does not replace having a family doctor who can learn your medical history and build a relationship with you.

Telethealth Ontario is not intended to provide emergency support. Call 911 to have an ambulance or other emergency response sent out or to get emergency first aid instructions by phone.

Telehealth Ontario service is also available in French, and the nurses can connect to translators in 110 languages.

What to Expect When You Call:

An operator will ask you about the reason for your call and take down your name, address and phone number. You do not need to provide a health card number. If a registered nurse is available immediately, you'll be connected; but, if all the lines are busy with other callers, you'll be given the option of waiting on the line or getting a call back.

If you've indicated that you have a health problem, the nurse will ask a few standard questions to ensure that it is not an emergency situation. You will then be able to speak to them and ask questions.

Telehealth Ontario Tips:

  • Have paper and a pen available when you phone, so you can make notes throughout your conversation.
  • Be prepared to keep your phone line free for a while after you phone, in case the lines are busy and they need to call you back.
  • Be prepared to provide specifics, such as medications you are currently taking. The nurse you speak to will not have access to your medical history. 
  • Remember everything you told the Telehealth nurse in case you decide to go to your doctor or a walk-in clinic for a diagnosis. Information you provide to Telehealth Ontario will not be added to your medical records, and they will not contact your doctor for you. 
Health Services (On Campus) 

Health Services is a medical clinic located on the first floor of the John T. Powell Building (beside the Athletic Centre). The clinic is open from Monday to Friday. Clinic hours are posted on the Health Services website.

Urgent health care is provided on campus to all ELP students with medical insurance. If you are not currently registered in the ELP program, you are not eligible to use Health Services. 

To make an appointment to see a doctor or nurse, phone the clinic at 519-824-4120 ext. 52131. Alternatively, you may go to the clinic and speak with the receptionist in person. You do not need an appointment; however, be prepared to wait longer if you walk in without an appointment.

When you arrive, show the receptionist your medical card and fill out the information form. You may be asked to verify your identity. If you have private insurance, you will be required to pay and then submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Walk-In Clinics (Off Campus) 
If you would like to visit a walk-in clinic in Guelph, see a list of available clinics, which includes hours of operation and location information.  

Email the ELP office if you are sick for three days or more. This is official notification or your illness. We can also pass the message on to your instructor or to the academic coordinator.

If you have a medical emergency, phone 911 on your telephone or dial 0 and tell the operator that you have an emergency.

6. Mental Health Support

If you would like to speak to someone about feeling stressed, sad, depressed, overwhelmed, etc., student counselling is a free and anonymous service available to you.

Visit the Counselling Services website for regular hours and location information.

ELP Student Drop-In is also available on Fridays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. in room 154B, Johnston Hall.

7. Emergency Contacts

Major Emergencies (accidents, theft, assault)

Please call 911.

Campus Police (24-hour emergency support)

University of Guelph
1 Trent Lane

Phone: 519-824-4120 ext. 52000

Homestay Coordinator 

Open Learning and Educational Support
Room 154C, Johnston Hall

Phone: 519-824-4120 ext. 53744

E. Intercultural Support: Canadian Culture - Some Possible Differences 

Canadian culture will probably be different than your own culture. The differences may be large or small. Some differences may bother you, others will not.

It is important to remember that the cultural differences you experience are all part of your learning adventure. Try to be patient and open-minded, and more importantly, try to keep your sense of humour.

You can read about some of the main cultural differences below.

1. Individualism 

Canadians value individualism. Most Canadians are independent and may not depend on their family in the same way as people in your culture do.

  • Individuals are expected to make their own decisions.
  • Individuals are responsible for themselves.
  • Canadian children are taught to think critically, make individual choices, and be independent (do things for themselves, and on their own).
2. Equality 

Canadians value equality. They consider all individuals in society as equal with equal rights and opportunities.

  • Women and men are equal in Canadian culture.
  • Status is not determined by sex, age, race or social rank.
  • Equal respect is shown to all individuals. 
3. Children and Seniors 

As Canadians value independence and equality, they may have different attitudes towards the treatment of children and seniors than your culture does.

  • Children often speak directly about their opinions or preferences.
  • Even young children are permitted to express disagreement with their parents. 
  • Seniors often live alone and are independent. 
4. Informality 

Perhaps because Canadians value equality, they are often quite informal.

  • It is normal to be asked to use first names by older people or people in superior positions (instructors, host family members, or managers in a work situation).
  • Canadian dress is also usually informal; people often wear casual clothes to work and school. 
5. Time 

Canadians value punctuality.

  • It is considered disrespectful to be late.
  • If you are going to be late for an appointment, it is a good idea to telephone or text and say you will be late.
  • Because Canadians like to be on time and value schedules, they may seem to be very busy. 
F. Intercultural Communication 

Different cultures have various communication styles and behaviours. This can be confusing and cause misunderstandings. Do not assume that what is normal for you is normal for others. Your words or gestures can be interpreted differently than you want them to.

1. Direct and Indirect Communication 
Suggest/implySay what is meant
Avoid confrontationSay the truth even if it is difficult
Goal is to preserve the relationshipGoal is to exchange information
Non-verbal signals importantSpoken word carries meaning
  • Canadians often communicate directly.
  • They will say what they mean and can be very direct.
  • They will appreciate your directness.
  • Canadians don't use as many non-verbal signals as other cultures.

Example: A student is cold and tries to express this to her host family by rubbing her arms and wearing sweaters. Her host family does not understand that she is cold until she says directly, "I am cold." Remember, physical behaviours that mean something in your culture may not have the same meaning for Canadians.

2. Emotional and Neutral Expressions

In some cultures, people are emotive when they communicate. They use a lot of facial expressions or arm and hand movements to express their ideas and feelings. In other cultures, people are not as emotionally or physically expressive. It is important to remember that these behaviours are often cultural. Before you judge somebody on these expressions, ask them what they meant.

  • Are you mad at me?
  • Am I in trouble?
  • What does that tone mean? 

Example: The host family always asks the student if he is OK, or if there is something wrong. He doesn't know why they think something is wrong, he is very happy. When he talks to them about it, they explain that they are worried because he does not smile as often as they do.

Eye Contact

Canadians usually expect people to look at them when they are talking. If you do not look at someone when they are talking, they may think you are not listening or do not care about what they say. If you are interested, it is important to keep eye contact.

Example: At first, the host mother talked to the student often. After a few weeks she didn't talk as much. The student didn't understand until she heard her host mother telling a friend, "Maybe she isn't interested in what I say." or "Maybe she doesn't understand, but she never looks at me when I am talking."

3. Communication Across Cultures

Misunderstandings can occur when people from different cultures are communicating. This can happen because of:

  • cultural differences
  • language difficulties
  • different meanings for gestures
  • physical behaviours

It is important to ask questions to be certain you have understood. It is okay to ask people to repeat their words, say them differently or more slowly.

Example: You can say, "Could you please repeat what you said a different way?", "I understood __________. Is that correct?", or "I don't understand ___________. Could you please explain?"

4. The Pause: Speech Patterns

Different cultures have different patterns of speaking. In some cultures, there is a space or pause between speakers. In other cultures, people speak almost at the same time. Canadians sometimes feel uncomfortable when there is silence between speakers. Sometimes they may think you need help and will try to speak for you. 

TIP - Conversation: If you feel that your Canadian friends are not giving you enough time to think or seem to speak for you, it is okay to say, "I am thinking.", or "One moment please." Then they will usually wait patiently for you to speak.

G. Misunderstandings and Problems 

Life with a family can have wonderful and difficult moments. All families have misunderstandings and problems. Most problems can be solved by talking about them with the family.

The Homestay Coordinator is available to assist students and host families with problems that they are unable to solve on their own. The Homestay Coordinator can give you advice and assistance.

1. Types of Problems 

Many problems are caused from different expectations or needs. Often problems arise from miscommunication. Misunderstanding behaviour or words can lead to problems. You or your host family may experience a change that causes changes to the household.

In all of these situations, if you and your host(s) talked about your needs and expectations, the situation could improve. It is important to talk about problems before they become bigger problems. Canadian host families expect and want you to talk to them about problems. 

2. Communication 

Try the following suggestions if you have a problem or a misunderstanding with your host family:

  • Talk to them about how you feel.
  • Tell them what you need. How can this need be met? Can you compromise to find a solution?

Your host will not know you have a problem without direct communication. If you cannot talk to your host family, talk to the Homestay Coordinator. Do not leave a problem for a long time. A small problem can become larger if it is not addressed quickly. 

3. Homestay Support 

If you have a problem with your host family, you should first try to talk to them. The Homestay Coordinator can help you if:

  • You have talked to your family and nothing has changed.
  • You need help with translating.
  • The problem is cultural.
  • You are confused and uncomfortable.
  • You want to talk to your host family, but you do not know how to express the way you feel. 
4. Serious Problems 

Serious problems do not often occur. ELP host families are all carefully selected and evaluated; however, if you have a serious problem with your host family that you are unable to talk with them about, you should talk to the Homestay Coordinator.


No one in your host family should ever behave sexually toward you. If you feel a family member is behaving sexually toward you, explain to the person that you feel uncomfortable or speak with the Homestay Coordinator about it.

Other Harassment

If you feel that someone in your host family has been disrespectful to you, your culture or your religion, you can tell them that you feel uncomfortable. If you do not feel comfortable speaking to your family, ask the Homestay Coordinator for advice or assistance. If you do talk to your family and nothing changes, speak with the Homestay Coordinator.

H. To Change Your Accommodation 

There are different reasons you may want to change your accommodation and there are different accommodation choices. If you want to leave your homestay, it is a good idea to speak with the Homestay Coordinator so they can give you advice and help you make the best choice.

1. Move to a Different Homestay 

Before you can change your homestay, you must consult with the Homestay Coordinator. We must follow procedure before moving you. You must try to work your problems out with your homestay host family first. If you and the Homestay Coordinator decide that it is best for you to have a different homestay experience, the Homestay Coordinator can help you find a new host family. Sometimes people are not a good match and a different situation may be better. The Homestay Coordinator can help you find a homestay where you will be happy. 

2. Move to Student Residence or Private (Independent) Rental 

Although many homestay students stay with their host family, other students may decide to leave a homestay for many different reasons. Many students find that after a period of time, they are prepared for independent living. Some students want to live on campus since the homestay experience does not meet their expectations or needs. 

3. To Leave Your Homestay 

You must notify your host family 30 days before you leave the homestay; read your student policies. You and your host family must sign a Termination Notice within one week of telling your host family that you are leaving.

Example: You want to move out August 13. You must tell your family July 13. You must sign a Termination Notice by July 20 (one week after you give notice).

If there are extra days after your normal rent payment date, you should pay the daily rate for each extra day.

Monthly rate due on the 1st of each month = $850. Daily rate = $27.45